Activity Monitor on Mac - How to Use It and What It Shows

With the activity display on the Mac, CPU-consuming processes can be identified, the RAM requirements of individual apps can be viewed, network activities can be monitored and other data can be viewed. With the app you can keep track of what is happening in macOS. In addition, unresponsive apps can be terminated via the activity monitor. So in many ways it is the Apple counterpart to the task manager in Microsoft Windows, which we did almost four years ago in this post have shown. You will find the latest information below.

The activity display on the Apple Mac shows you all the important details about CPU, memory, power consumption, hard drive usage, network load and cache. Details on how to use the macOS tool can be found here.
The activity display on the Apple Mac shows you all the important details about CPU, memory, power consumption, hard drive usage, network load and cache. Details on how to use the macOS tool can be found here.

Use activity monitor on macOS

In order to be able to use the individual options and functions of the macOS activity display, you first have to open the program. That goes z. B. via Spotlight (cmd + space bar) and entering the word "activity indicator" or via the Finder by looking for it in the Applications folder:

Hard Disk -> Applications -> Utilities -> Activity Monitor

Once you have opened the activity display app, various tabs are available to you by means of which the individual component-specific information can be viewed. In this way, the consumption of processor, main memory, electricity, hard drive capacity or storage and the utilization of the network can be managed. The following tabs are available for this:

  • CPU
  • Storage
  • Energy
  • hard disk
  • Network
  • cache

CPU tab in the macOS Activity Viewer

The Mac Activity Monitor lists all processes currently being processed by the processor in the CPU tab. These can be system processes as well as apps or tools. To see which process or processes the CPU use the most, they can be sorted according to consumption in %. This allows you to quickly determine the cause of loud fans or the “Beachball of Death”. Processes can also be stopped and ended here; It's an app but I recommend the "Quit programs immediately"-Option. 

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Storage tab in macOS Activity Monitor

In the memory tab, the Mac activity meter shows how much memory (RAM) is used by the running software. If you click on the column heading "Storage" in the corresponding table, the list will be sorted according to the amount of consumption. The information in KB (kilobytes), MB (megabytes) and GB (gigabytes) must be set in relation to the built-in RAM in order to determine the load. You can find an overview under the list, even with a graph showing the memory pressure.

Energy tab in the macOS activity monitor

There is also the energy tab in the Mac activity display, with which you can see which apps and processes are currently consuming the most electricity. Apps that are idle in the background are low-consumption because they do not use the processor, RAM or graphics card. Active software or software working in the background consumes correspondingly more electricity, because it requires the processor, RAM, graphics card, fan and / or other components to perform well. You can use the energy tab to see which program alternative (e.g. which browser for web use) is the most economical.

Hard drive tab in macOS Activity Monitor

The Mac activity monitor shows in the hard disk tab which process and which application has written and read how many bytes of data. You don't really have to look at it for everyday use. However, if you use a MacBook, you can see which non-essential apps read and write the most data. Because this also consumes electricity, which can put a strain on the battery when you are out and about. So if you want a long battery life (or low power consumption on the network), you can, for example, prevent the constant iCloud synchronization of the cloudd process - especially since this also fuels network sales.

Network tab in macOS Activity Viewer

The network tab of the Mac activity display also shows which process or which app causes how large a data turnover - just with regard to the networks used. This can be local LAN or WLAN connections, but also communication with the Internet. It shows, among other things, bytes sent and bytes received (as bytes, KB, MB and GB) as well as the number of packets sent and received. Larger numbers can be used e.g. For example, expect when a Time Machine backup is saved or updated in cloud storage.

Cache tab in macOS Activity Monitor

In the Mac Activity Monitor, the cache summary is not shown by default. It can only be seen if the so-called "content caching" is activated, which is supposed to help speed up downloads from Apple servers or devices. By downloading Apple or iCloud data to an Apple device only once, content caching helps to distribute these to other local devices without them having to be connected to the Internet. You can find details on this in the official guide.

Display utilization of individual components separately

Don't you want to have the Activity Monitor open as an active window all the time, but still want to monitor certain values? On the one hand, there are certain tools for this, such as iStat Menus, but also a solution integrated in macOS for the system status in the dock or as a mini-window. In addition, the status of the CPU, network or hard disk can be displayed in real time as a graphic in order to manage the resources directly and to adapt the workflow to a high or low load. Present in the dock passes over Presentation -> Dock; as a mini-window this z. B. over Window -> Current CPU Usage or Window -> CPU usage history.

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In the Sir Apfelot Blog you will find advice, instructions and reviews on Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and Mac Studio.